Plunket - successful business/community partnerships

Plunket is a household name in New Zealand. This unique position, combined with highly skilled staff and strategic leadership has helped Plunket have valuable partnerships with businesses for over ten years. In this time Plunket has learnt a lot, and have been kind enough to share some of their thoughts and practices with others.

This case study is designed to provide insight and ideas for businesses and community organisations interested in developing partnerships.

How do you choose business partners?
We use a balanced scorecard approach (below) based on 6 key partnership criteria - brand 'fit' is the single biggest factor in our decision-making process. 
 
Partnership Criteria
Plunket has six key criteria for weighted scoring

Brand 'fit' is the single biggest consideration accounting for a quarter of the total weighting. Revenue and leverage combined account for just over one-third of the total weighting.

CRITERIA CONDITIONS/CONSIDERATIONS WEIGHTING
Brand fit/alignment
(inc. reputation/ ’Kiwiana)
  • Fit with Plunket's core objectives - health, children, families (high weighting)
  • Recent positive media coverage (high weighting)
  • NZ brand history (medium weighting)
  • Historical market reputation (lower weighting)
25
Revenue
  • What's the category worth compared to what the partnership is potentially worth i.e. sponsorship value proposition doesn't meet/match partner funding requirements/availability (high weighting)
  • What percentage of business profit is the potential partnership i.e. % total promotional spend/cost to the partner (lower weighting)
20
Leverage
  • Level of supporting promotional activity partner commits to undertake (high weighting)
  • How much are they prepared to invest in leverage that benefits us? E.g. Up to an additional 100% of sponsorship fee (high weighting)
  • How much are they prepared to invest in leverage that benefits them? (lower weighting)
  • As a comparison what do they do in support of other sponsorships (lower weighting)
15
People/skills
(inc. advocacy)
  • Capability/capacity of key management/staff managing the partnership (high weighting)
  • Capability/capacity of partner organization support staff (lower weighting)
15
Exclusivity/other partnerships
  • Do we have to give them category/product exclusivity? How does this impact on our current partners/target markets? (high weighting)
  • Do they have any other community-based children/family partnerships? i.e. what's our level of exclusivity? (high weighting)
  • Do any of their other products/services outside of the sponsorship conflict with any of our partners? (lower weighting)
15
Networks
(local & international)
  • Level of organisational networks/representation across the country (high weighting)
  • Cohesiveness of that representation across the country - quality over quantity i.e. franchises, co-operatives (high weighting)
  • Access to other networks i.e. retail chains (lower weighting)
  • Are there accessible international networks available in terms of research, funding streams, collaboration, etc. (lower weighting)
10

What homework do you do before you meet a potential partner?
It's a collaborative process when we actually get to the stage of sitting down with potential partners (we probably turn down more than 9 out of 10 approaches from businesses). We'll do more extensive background research as we progress through the discussions. Essentially We're doing a mini-form of 'due diligence' around each of the 6 criteria that make up our scorecard. We're also starting to think about fit with our other partners as part of the 'homework' phase.
 
What do you get from your partners? (money, goods in kind, skills, other things)
An annual sponsorship fee based on property/category, leverage via goods-in-kind products and services, advertising media and access to specialist resources/expertise, particularly around key projects.

What have been the key things you've learned about business/community partnerships?
'Sponsorship' is a two-way partnership that requires active participation from both parties. Plunket's developed a very hands on approach to managing our relationships with partners which includes regularly engaging all of them in a wider group forum. We also have a long-term view across all of our relationships, so whilst a sponsorship term might be for an initial 1, 2 or 3 year period, there's always a shared strategic intent that looks out at least 5-10 years ahead.

How have your business/community partnerships changed over time? What do you do differently now to what you used to?
Plunket's now much more commercially savvy about its sponsorships, particularly around the depth of opportunities to leverage business relationships in ways that benefit all parties. Having the right resources (people) in place to actively manage and develop our partnerships has been vital.

What makes the biggest difference with business/community partnerships?
People who share a common sense of purpose for their community.

What are the challenges of business/community partnerships?
Probably advocacy. Plunket will always put the best interests of children and their families/caregivers ahead of commercial interests - sometimes our positioning can be challenging for business partners (and vice-versa). It's important to have open and honest communications on the difficult stuff. 

What do you think is the future of business/community partnerships
in New Zealand?
There are lots of opportunities, particularly in the SME/Start-Up space for alignment with social enterprises and their local causes. Both parties need to have a long-term view of any potential partnership too.

What words of advice do you have for other charities thinking about a partnership with a business?
Go for it! Often it'll require an initial leap of faith on both sides. You need to listen to what business is telling you about the opportunity to partner and it's not all about cold, hard cash (although that obviously helps). People and their skills and expertise and the capability to leverage off a business partner's networks (e.g media/advertising) can be invaluable.

What do you think of the '"How to engage with businesses" guide delivered as part of the recent research?
It provides a useful framework and starting point for both businesses and social enterprises to start to engage and build a dialogue, but sponsorship isn't an exact science and effectively every alliance is a 'bespoke' partnership. The reality is that it can take time to build a relationship - anywhere from 6-18 months is probably the normal range in terms of a timeline from initial discussions to being able to sign a sponsorship agreement - and ultimately it's people who will connect organisations. Personal and professional values alignment is a key factor in building partnership longevity. And it certainly helps to have 'Champions' for your cause who have the right networks!

 

This case study supports the report on Engagement between Business and Community Organisations